My ebook has me thinking a lot about intentionality and why we’re prone to react instead of living intentionally. Building the foundation has required hours of conceptual thinking, but theories need to grow legs and walk eventually.
The point of being intentional isn’t to add another item to already full to do lists. The goal is to see results, to cultivate the essential yet often neglected areas of our lives.
For the two weeks until the ebook launches, I’m writing a series of posts about specific applications for intentionality: money, relationships, health, and spiritual growth.
Let’s start with money.
Though Mike and I earned little early in our marriage, our lack of income wasn’t the problem; our lack of intention was. No amount of income can overcome willful ignorance.
3 ways to be intentional with money:
1. Live on a budget
“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” – John Maxwell
Budgeting is the most intentional and life changing thing you can do with money. A budget gives you a framework that fits into your overall plan. I used to feel anxious over even small purchases because I had no idea how it affected our overall situation or future. Budgeting is a tool for freedom, not restriction: it gives you a sense of freedom within constraints.
2. Set financial goals
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll
Because we’re human, we’ll drift into passive mode without a reason to keep paying attention. Setting goals, even small ones, gives you focus and a reason to keep being intentional. Our current financial goal is to become debt free. The picture at the top of this post is a simple visual that keeps me motivated. Keeping track of our progress month to month reminds me that we’re getting somewhere, that it’s worth it, and to keep going.
3. Work together with your spouse
Early in our marriage, Mike and I struggled to communicate about money. We lived with an intense awareness and constant stress that we didn’t have enough, but neither of us had the courage to work through the dirty details.
Now we celebrate the victories, endure the frustrations, and hold each other accountable. There may be conflict, and it may be uncomfortable but your relationship and your finances will benefit profoundly from working together.
What fascinates (and frustrates) me about intentionality is how good it sounds in theory, but how hard it is to pursue in real life. If finances are a struggle, or something you’d prefer to ignore, see if any of these reasons resonate.
Why we’re not intentional with money:
1. Fear of restriction
People who’ve never lived on a budget often cite the restriction and lack of freedom as a key reason. When we finally started living on a budget, I felt more freedom. Instead of worrying about whether I could afford a new shirt, I could buy it with freedom. If it wasn’t in the budget that month, I could avoid the store altogether and cultivate contentment in what I already have.
2. We feel like we’re already behind
Do you feel like you need to “just catch up” before doing any big picture planning? What I finally realized is that we had been in a perpetual cycle of catching up for three years of marriage. Looking at the big picture changed our strategy, and it gave us hope for a different financial future. Stepping off the treadmill to catch our breath renewed our energy and changed our direction.
3. It feels overwhelming
It might be overwhelming at first. It takes a huge amount of energy to get the ball rolling, but it takes much less energy to keep the ball rolling. Your might be intensely frustrated the first time you make a budget. Your first month trying to live on that budget might be a train wreck. Have patience with yourself and remember that things you do automatically now were once overwhelming for you. Remember the first time you got in the driver’s seat of a car?
4. No one has taught us what to do
Maybe your confidence is low because you don’t have the information you need. I recommend The Total Money Makeover. It’s user friendly, inspiring and takes you through one step at a time. It’s comprehensive without being overwhelming or full of jargon.
5. We feel like we’re doing “okay”
One of the most deceptive reasons we avoid money conversations is that we’re not in enough pain. Our needs are met and our bills are paid, so we ignore the details. All I would say is that the grateful and humble response to blessing of any kind, material or not, is to take care of it.
Do you struggle to be intentional with money? Do you relate to any of these common reasons we’re not?
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